Drones help in disaster relief in Vanuatu

A New Zealand team contracted by the World Bank to provide drone footage of cyclone devastated Vanuatu believe the technology could change how disaster is managed.

NZ team contracted to provide drone footage of cyclone-devastated Vanuatu believe the technology could be a game-changer. Source: 1 NEWS

It's been over a month since Cyclone Pam hit, killing 11 - and with 90% of food crops destroyed and 75,000 homeless, the country faces huge problems.

But the information collected by drones is helping to see what's still needed in affected areas.

The Bank contracted two teams, while a regional group in charge of disaster response sent in a third. And the results are telling.

The team from New Zealand company X-Craft Enterprises was one of three helping agencies assess the extent of the damage.

"It basically means those making the decision have a far greater ability to form far greater accurate information on which to base their decisions," Philip Solaris of X-Craft Enterprises said.

X-Craft uses virtual piloting, sending their UAV's - unmanned aerial vehicles - to collect pictures and data in remote communities.

They can operate without infrastructure and can gather huge amounts of information very quickly - that information is also being used to make three-dimensional models.

"The recovery is still really in the early stages, there is still a humanitarian crisis in Vanuatu. We've got the first wave of aid to communities that really need it but there is a long way to go," UNICEF NZ's Vivien Maidaborn said.

UNICEF has been working closely with the 82,000 children affected - 17,000 children have been immunised against a measles epidemic, and education has also been a focus.

"The schools are largely gone, UNICEF is busy putting up tents for schools, getting school books and pencils to each child, all of those things are very challenging," Ms Maidaborn said.